Helpless Dancer

The Endless Note

New News – John Fahey

Rare material from John Fahey is set to be exhumed on the upcoming box set ‘John Fahey: Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You (The Fonotone Years 1958-1965)’.

Very much a neglected figure, John Fahey is extremely important to the evolution of American music. An important figure in the blues and folk revival, he helped rediscover performers long since thought lost to music.

His own recordings were an extraordinary mixture of technical virtuosity and emotional depth.

Sadly passing away in 2001, some rare elements of the guitarist’s back catalogue have now been

Releasing his debut album ‘Blind Joe Death’ in 1959, the guitarist seemed to arrive fully formed.

However he did make earlier recordings, laying down instrumental tracks for the Fonotone label.

Issuing in tiny quantities, the songs were pressed onto 78RPM discs. Unusual even for the time, the Fonotone label handled a series of John Fahey tracks between 1958 and 1965.

It is this period which forms the spine of the new box set (via Tiny Mixtapes). ‘John Fahey: Your Past Comes Back to Haunt You (The Fonotone Years 1958-1965)’ promises countless rare material, including some cuts which have never been released on any format.

Dust-To-Digital are to handle the release, which will contain a total of five CDs. Joe Bussard controlled the Fonotone label, and his archives have proved to be an invaluable addition to the Fahey discography.

Containing 115 tracks, the upcoming box set is edited by fellow guitarist – and Fahey collaborator – Glenn Jones, with the full approval of the late musician’s estate.

Alongside a host of musical rarities the upcoming box set also includes an 88-page book with essays and analysis, reproductions of those Fonotone labels and rare photographs donated by Jane C. Hayes — Fahey’s mother.

For more on the project click HERE.

June 30, 2011 Posted by | Blues, Folk, New News, New Releases, Video | | 1 Comment

Cover Story – Dirty Old Town

“Dirty Old Town” is a song written by Ewan MacColl in 1949 that was made popular by The Dubliners and has been recorded by many others since.

The song was written in reference to Salford, then in Lancashire (now in Greater Manchester), England, and the place where Ewan MacColl was brought up. It was originally composed for an interlude to cover an awkward scene change in Ewan MacColl’s Salford-set, 1949 play Landscape with Chimneys, but with the growing popularity of folk music the song became a standard.

The song paints an evocative yet ultimately bitter picture of industrial northern England, and presages to some extent the Angry Young Man school of the 1950s.

When MacColl first wrote the song, the local council were unhappy at having Salford called a dirty old town and, after considerable criticism, the words of the song were changed from “smelled a Spring on the Salford wind” to “smelled a spring on the smoky wind”.

The Spinners made the first popular recording of the song and they sang “Salford wind”. This was hardly surprising as the lead singer on the track was Mick Groves, a Salfordian.

The song was therefore written about an English town; but because of the song’s later association with The Dubliners and The Pogues, many people tend to think of it as an Irish song, and as such, in Ireland the lyrics are popularly thought to refer to Dublin or Derry – a counter-part to the latter being Phil Coulter‘s “The Town I Loved So Well“.

My favourite version is by Rod Stewart.


To buy the music of Rod Stewart click HERE

June 25, 2011 Posted by | Cover Stories, Folk, Old Music, Video | , , | Leave a comment

The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

Haven’t had much reggae here recently so here is Marcia Griffiths and her version of one of Ewan MacColl’s greatest songs.

“The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face” – Marcia Griffiths

The song was written for Peggy Seeger who later became his wife and is cherished as a MacCall song devoid of politics.

The song entered the pop mainstream when it was released by Peter, Paul and Mary (Album: See What Tomorrow Brings, 1965), and was later recorded by Roberta Flack, in 1972. The Flack version was much slower than the original: an early solo recording by Seeger, for example, clocked in at two and a half minutes long, whereas Flack’s is more than twice that length.

MacColl reputedly hated almost all the recordings of the song, including Flack’s.

His daughter-in-law is quoted as saying:

“He hated all of them. He had a special section in his record collection for them, entitled ‘The Chamber of Horrors’. He said that the Elvis version was like Romeo at the bottom of the Post Office Tower singing up to Juliet. And the other versions, he thought, were travesties: bludgeoning, histrionic and lacking in grace.”

June 22, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Cover Stories, Folk, Old Music, R&B, Reggae, Soul, Video | , , | Leave a comment

New Music – Lulu & The Lampshades

First thing this is NOT the Marie Lawrie Lulu as in “and The Luvvers”

However stay with me if you were worried that there hadn’t been a quirky folk-pop group for ages, one where they sing songs about Cherry Coke and pedal bikes and play them on a variety of make-shift instruments, then fear not: this Lulu and her Lampshades are here to save the day.

Their music is so cheery they could use it to advertise fun. They perform alongside dancing lampshades, hence their name. And their new single, Feet to the Sky, recalls the theme to 60s kids TV puppet show Camberwick Green, so if you’re not in the mood for jolly and jaunty, you should probably alight here.

But it would appear to be to a lot of people’s taste, although that could be down to simple masochism: the YouTube video for their song You’re Gonna Miss Me, now known as “Cups” (see below) eaturing two members in a kitchen, wearing pyjamas and singing the song while beating out its rhythm on empty plastic cartons, has gone mega.

Now some of you will have remembered this video from a previous post, now the rest of the world is catching up!!

They started life when they formed a pretend group comprising Luisa on GarageBand and Heloise on “air-glockenspiel”. Eventually they drafted in Jemma, the one who has been compared with Patti Smith and knows about chords and notes and stuff, and Dan, who makes strange facial expressions as he bashes things, not always drums.

Now they’re laying waste to venues the length and breadth of, well, Camden, mainly, stomping their feet and clapping their hands and generally smiling and being, ugh, IN A GOOD MOOD as they tout their winsome wares.

Sometimes their music is jazzy and swingy with shades of the Puppini Sisters. Other times it isn’t. Often it reminds us that there is nothing remotely new under the sun: about 25 years ago, there was a micro-movement in London of young acts who would incorporate elements of folk, skiffle and bluegrass, groups with names like the Shillelagh Sisters, the Boothill Foot Tappers and one called Pogue Mahone, who later shortened it to the Pogues. The latter were fronted by a gentleman by the name of Shane MacGowan. He didn’t smile much or clap his hands, although he would regularly smash household objects over people’s heads. Still does, apparently.

The buzz: “This is a work of genius, joyous and brilliantly recorded. Lulu and the Lampshades are probably the best pop-folk act out there.”

The truth: Genius is probably stretching it. And joyous? Well, that’s a matter of perspective. But they’re certainly a pop-folk act.

Most likely to: Carry on performing even during a power cut.

Least likely to: Bite the ear off an audience member.

What to buy: Feet to the Sky is released by Voga Parochia on 26 October.

File next to: Boothill Foot Tappers, Kate Nash, Peggy Sue, Melody Melodica & Me.

Source in part from

They have a new four track EP out titled “Cold Water” which features a new recorded version of the now famous “Cups” song.

“Cups” – Lulu & The Lampshades

To buy the music of Lulu & The Lampshades click HERE

May 4, 2011 Posted by | Folk, New Music, Video | | 2 Comments

New Music – Little Miss Higgins

Somewhat amazingly it has taken until the recent relaunch of her fourth album from April 2010 for the music of Little Miss Higgins to catch my radar.

Little Miss Higgins  (aka Jolene Higgins) was born in Brooks, Alberta.

The blues, folk and jazz performer was however in fact raised in Independence, Kansas prior to moving back north. Now based in Saskatchewan the singer-songwriter strikes out in a wonderful, cultured style as she showcases her fine work on guitar as well as vocals.

Supported by her partner, Foy Taylor (guitar), Joey Lorer (upright bass), Joanna Miller (drums), Jimmie James McKee (trumpet) and others the music contains a great vibrancy as her and the band swing through a varied set of tunes including some splendid ones of a ragtime nature.

There is a rare live feel to the new album “Across The Plains”  the 1930s come to mind as she continually prompts and probes boundaries to produce a huge joyful sound.  


‘Glad Your Whiskey Fits Inside My Purse’ could just as easily come from America’s infamous prohibition era as the listener is taken on a whistle stop trip through that period in time.

“Glad Your Whiskey Fits Inside My Purse” – Little Miss Higgins

Her stage name, Little Miss Higgins suits the undeniably inflammatory mix of her blues and country music repertoire but the moniker was largely accidental. “When I moved to Saskatchewan in 2002 I started hanging out with this Greek guy,” she recalls “He started calling me Little Miss Higgins so I used it on poster for a gig I was doing and it just stuck.”

As a songwriter, she has been influenced by a range of artists from Memphis Minnie, Billie Holiday, Big Bill Broonzy to Joni Mitchell, Dolly Parton and Bob Dylan.

Her first two studio albums “Cobbler Shop Sessions” (2006) and “Junction City” (2007) superbly showcase Little Miss Higgins as a highly-developed songwriter as well as a remarkable country blues performer in a style gracefully highlighted by her partner, guitarist Foy Taylor and occasionally a handful of other roots musicians.

To her fan’s delight, there was the 2009 release “Little Miss Higgins Live: Two Nights In March”.  The album was recorded at Amigo’s Cantina in Saskatoon, and Engineered Air Theatre in Calgary.  The album features such favourite performance fare as “The Dirty Ol Tractor Song,” “Velvet Barley Bed,” “In The Middle Of Nowhere” and “I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuits.” As well as a couple of previously unreleased songs including “Snowin’ Today: A Lament For Louis Riel.”

“I’m Gonna Bake My Biscuits” (Live) – Little Miss Higgins

With her newest release, “Across The Plains” and partner Foy Taylor, Little Miss Higgins now enters international waters with a tour to the UK in the spring of 2011.

To buy the music of Little Miss Higgins click HERE 

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Blues, Folk, Jazz, New Music, Old Music, Video | | Leave a comment

Blast From The Past – John Fahey

John Fahey (February 28, 1939 – February 22, 2001) was an American finger style guitarist and composer who pioneered the steel-string acoustic guitar as a solo instrument.

His style has been greatly influential and has been described as the foundation of American Primitivism, a term borrowed from painting and referring mainly to the self-taught nature of the music and its minimalist style.

Fahey borrowed from the folk and blues traditions in American roots music, having compiled many forgotten early recordings in these genres. He would later incorporate classical, Portuguese, Brazilian, and Indian music into his signature style.

Fahey wrote a largely apocryphal autobiography and was known for his coarseness, aloof demeanor, and dry humour. He spent many of his latter years in poverty and poor health, but also enjoyed a minor career resurgence with a turn towards the more explicitly avant-garde. He died in 2001 due to complications from heart surgery.

In 2003, he was ranked 35th in the Rolling Stone “The 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time”

During his early days of recording he would sometimes insist on being known as “Blind Thomas” which was an early sign of his habit of inventing “blues personas”, later when he made some money he would be a champion for lost blues singers.

Blind Joe Death was his 1959 debut album, however, ultimately there ended up three different versions of the album.

The original self-released edition (above) ran to fewer than 100 copies and as such  is obviously extremely rare.

It was one of the first albums recorded and produced by an independent artist being as it was released on Takoma Records, Fahey’s own creation. It was not marketed and made no impression on the American record-buying public.

The album had a first re-release it was however not a re-pressing of the original release as Fahey had in 1963 decided to to re-record much of the material, as he felt he had become a much better player.

This second pressing claims that “On Doing an Evil Deed Blues”, “In Christ There Is No East or West”, “The Transcendental Waterfall”, “Desperate Man Blues”, and “Uncloudy Day” are 1964 rerecordings and the rest (“St. Louis Blues”, “Poor Boy Long Ways from Home”, “John Henry”, “Sun Gonna Shine in My Back Door Someday Blues”, and “Sligo River Blues”) are the original 1959 versions. “Uncloudy Day” was actually the same recording, as was “St. Louis Blues” in an edited version.

“St Louis Blues” – John Fahey

The 1959 album contained a version of Blind Blake’s “West Coast Blues”, which (despite being rerecorded in 1964) was not included on the album. To fill the gap, the new version of “Transcendental Waterfall” was extended to over 10 minutes long, a glimpse of things to come.

By 1967 Fahey had released a number of albums and was very successful thus it was decided that his first two albums be released in stereo; they were both rerecorded, resulting in a third version of Blind Joe Death (as above), with a new, shorter version of “The Transcendental Waterfall” and a new song, “I’m Gonna Do All I Can for My Lord”.

The 1967 version received five stars in the second edition of the Rolling Stone Record Guide, however, it should be noted that the 1967 versions of Blind Joe Death and Death Chants, Breakdowns & Military Waltzes were actually recorded in mono, and briefly released on mono LP. Later in 1967, these recordings were edited to create a stereo effect and released on stereo LP with new artwork.

The 1996 Fantasy/Takoma CD release, The Legend of Blind Joe Death, contains the 1964 and 1967 versions of the album, with a previously unreleased 1964 recording of “West Coast Blues”, however, this CD does not include the latest ‘shorter’ 1967 recording of “The Transcendental Waterfall”, as mentioned above.

“Poor Boy Long Way From Home” – John Fahey

For years Fahey and Takoma continued to treat the imaginary guitarist Blind Joe Death as a real person, including booklets with their LPs containing biographical information about him including the “fact” that he had a guitar made from a baby’s coffin and that he had taught Fahey to play.

Fahey sometimes incorporated the myth of Blind Joe into his performances, wearing dark glasses and being led by the arm onto the stage.

Blind Joe had after all appeared again in Fahey’s 1965 release “The Transfiguration Of Blind Joe Death”.

Again it was only recognised for it’s brilliance following later re-issues, it is interesting to note that the distinctive cover of The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death is briefly focused on in a shot of a record store in Stanley Kubrick‘s film A Clockwork Orange. The jacket design and drawing are by David Omar White.

After its reissue in 1997, “The Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death” received highly laudatory reviews with often “On the Sunny Side of the Ocean” being identified as the “undeniable highlight of the album”.

“On The Sunny Side Of The Ocean” – John Fahey

To buy the music of John Fahey click HERE

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Blues, Folk, Old Music | | 1 Comment

New Music – Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes have announced the follow-up to their 2008 self-titled album. The Seattle folk-rockers will release Helplessness Blues on 2 May, followed by North American and European tour dates.

Helplessness Blues was recorded over the course of a year at Avast Recording, Bear Creek Studios, Dreamland Studios, and Reciprocal Recording. The album was recorded and mixed by Phil Ek and co-produced by Fleet Foxes and Ek. The piece that appears on the album cover was illustrated by Seattle artist Toby Liebowitz and painted by Chris Alderson. Fleet Foxes is Robin Pecknold, Skyler Skjelset, Christian Wargo, Casey Wescott, Josh Tillman and Morgan Henderson.

“Helplessness Blues” – Fleet Foxes

To buy the music of the Fleet Foxes click HERE

February 2, 2011 Posted by | Folk, New Music, New Releases | | Leave a comment

New Music – The Last Battle

Photo :- Dylan Matthews

The Last Battle are a new discovery for me which has arisen from my frequent visits to the great 17 Seconds blog with whom they have signed a record deal.

The Last Battle are a 7 piece Scottish Folk Pop band. The Edinburgh based group mix traditional folk influences and instrumentation with contemporary pop melodies and boy/girl harmonies.

You can buy the The Last Battle’s debut album ‘Heart Of The Land, Soul Of The Sea’ from iTunes or eMusic.

In the meantime you can dip your toes into their glorious water via this free download of a great track from the album.

December 7, 2010 Posted by | Folk, New Music, New News | | Leave a comment

Dazed And Confused

“Dazed And Confused” – Jake Holmes

Jimmy Page is being sued by the man who wrote and first recorded the song Dazed And Confused.

Jake Holmes, an American folk singer, claims that Page and Led Zeppelin infringed his copyright, as his version came out two years prior to Zeppelin’s more famous one, on their self-titled, debut album.

However, even if he is successful in this federal law suit (filed in California), Holmes could only claim money owed during the past three years, due to the statute of limitations, this being a drop in the ocean to what Page will have earned from writer’s royalties.

The story started in 1967 when Holmes recorded this song for his debut album “The Above Ground Sound” Of Jake Holmes. What made it unusual was the whole record was done with just bass, guitar and vocals – no drums.

Released in June 1967, the album wasn’t at all well received, but on August 25 the same year, he supported The Yardbirds (featuring Page) when they played at the Village Theater in Greenwich Village, New York. So impressed were the British band with the song that they decided to develop their own version. This was a much longer one, with Page using a violin bow on his guitar.

Although The Yardbirds never did a studio version of this, there have been a couple of live recordings put out. One from a French TV show in March 1968 (which cropped up on a live album released in 2000) actually has Holmes down as writing the song.

By the time Zeppelin recorded Dazed And Confused, Page had changed so much of the song – lyrically and musically – that he was credited as the sole writer. Holmes did try to contact Page, but with no luck. However, he always refused to take legal action – until now.

Source :

People who appreciate blues music will readily recognise that blues music and lyrics were in the old days passed from performer to performer each time often amended in either a minor or major manner. Thus what often appeared to be variations of the same song were credited to a variety of writers.

In the past copyright was difficult to determine and as such credits often refered to “Traditional” many blues writers and performers later missed out on potential royaly windfalls following the 60’s British Blues Boom.

Many bands including The Rolling Stones often went to great efforts to ensure the correct writer was credited, however Led Zeppelin unfortunately have a poor track record in this respect with many blues standards sprinkled through their recorded catalogue without true credit being given.

In this instance from the 60’s there can be no excuse, George Harrison with “My Sweet Lord” and The Chiffons “he’s So Fine” being another example.

If Jimmy Page had any decency he would stump up without complaint and give Holmes the co-writed credit he deserves.

Now the question is did Jake Holmes pinch it from someone else?

September 11, 2010 Posted by | Blues, Folk, New News, Old Music, Video | , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Sounds – Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk was mentioned in passing as part of Monday’s posting therefore I thought it appropriate to end the week with something from him.

“He Was A Friend Of Mine” – Dave Van Ronk

Dave Van Ronk (June 30, 1936 – February 10, 2002) was a folk singer born in Brooklyn, New York, who settled in Greenwich Village, New York City, and was nicknamed the “Mayor of MacDougal Street.”

He was best known as an important figure in New York City during the acoustic folk revival of the 1960s, but his work ranged from old English ballads to Bertolt Brecht, rock, New Orleans jazz, and swing. He is often associated with blues but he pointed out at concerts that he actually had only a limited number in his repertoire. He became known for performing instrumental ragtime guitar music, and he was an early friend and supporter of Bob Dylan, Tom Paxton, Patrick Sky, Phil Ochs, and Joni Mitchell, among many others.

To buy the music of Dave Van Ronk click HERE

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Blast from The Past, Folk, Old Music | | Leave a comment

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